Review Blog

Nov 02 2016

A miscellany of magical beasts by Simon Holland

cover image

Ill. by David Wyatt and Kate Walker et al. Bloomsbury, 2016. ISBN 9781408881958
(Age: 7+) Highly recommended. Magic, Mythology, Legends, Monsters. A coffee table book with the most glorious of illustrations will not be out of children's hands for long. An enticing table of contents tells the reader that inside they will find information about a range of mythical beasts, including Harpies, Basilisks, the Chimera, Pegasus as well as Giants, Werewolves and Elves. Many are not well known so a double page spent on each is very welcome and most informative. Opening to the section on Merpeople, the information gives readers an idea of this mythological being from the perspective of several countries. In Japan they are called Ningyo and are said to be the bringer of bad luck, some European stories tell about Melasine, and in Canada the First People have a story about a half fish half person who creates storms, while many people have stories about the Selkie. The double page gives a fascinating overview of this being with rather touching illustrations by Helen Ward. Another page which I was most interested in is the one about the Basilisk. I have always associated this term with a hissing sound, but I found out that the Basilisk is a serpent with the head of a cockerel, whose stare can kill.
The slavering mouth of the Cerberus greeted me as I turned a page, and so I had to stop to read about this ferocious animal, noticing that the frightening illustration by David Demaret shows the animal with two heads. I read on, finding that this animal has three heads (I needed to flatten the book more) and is the keeper of the Underworld in Greek mythology. Over the page more information is given about other Gatekeepers, Ammut in Egypt, Yama's hounds in India and Garmir in Norse mythology.
At the end of the book is a glossary of terms, ending off an engrossing read about all sorts of beings accompanied by luminous illustrations which will capture the interest of all who read the book.
Fran Knight

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